Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Letter to the Sun

I have decided to reenter the frey on Oakwood, which I left several months ago after receiving threatening comments from people on the other side. The following is a letter I sent to the Sun Messenger which is not being published due to length:

To the editor:

Like many, I was saddened to learn that the Oakwood Club had been sold to a developer – First Interstate, run by Mitchell Schneider. I wanted the land to be preserved as a green space – although as a fertilized and manicured golf course, it has never been a true green space. But the developer bought the land fair & square after a neighborhood group failed to raise more than a small fraction of the money required for purchase.

Now, there is a choice facing the citizens of South Euclid: Should the land be zoned commercial or residential?

Some very noisy people have dug their heels in, clinging to the belief that the land can become a park. Many are hoping that if Issue 96 is rejected, the developer will throw up his hands, magically “see the light” and donate the land to the Metroparks (which never bid on the land when it was for sale) or to the city of South Euclid (which cannot afford to reclaim and maintain all 60-plus acres). This hope flies in the face of all logic and business sense.

Zoning the Oakwood land residential does not mean it will become a park. It means housing would be built, most likely a gated community – because there are people who want to live close to the city, but not in the open neighborhoods with smaller houses that South Euclid has. New housing will exacerbate the glut of existing housing on the market and further depress property values. The bulk of property taxes paid on those houses will go to Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools – meaning whatever South Euclid collects won’t cover the costs of road upkeep, trash collection, et cetera. South Euclid will also lose the 21 acres of parkland that First Interstate is offering to donate, remediate, and maintain. Beware: a No vote is gambling with our city’s financial future – and means a tax increase for sure.

Certainly there are some in South Euclid who have been misled into opposing the rezoning of Oakwood. And there are some here who oppose it based on delusions of a massive urban park or on rigid ideological grounds. But the driving force of the opposition comes from activists and business in Cleveland Heights. They can’t vote on this issue, so they are trying to influence how South Euclidians vote. Don’t be fooled by them. I have also noted online comments at which make negative references to the developer’s religion/ethnicity. Really - in this day and age? How sad that individuals use the anonymity of the Internet to engage in this kind of baiting.

A Yes vote will mean over 700 permanent jobs – in addition to the jobs required to build Oakwood Commons. True, these will be retail/restaurant jobs, which are not the highest paying. But they will go a long way to alleviate the problem of youth unemployment. The money earned by these employees will mostly be spent locally. The income taxes collected will benefit South Euclid’s coffers. First Interstate will cover the costs of putting a sidewalk on Warrensville Center Road – where only a fence exists now. First Interstate will NOT be seeking any tax abatements – unlike the developers of Cedar Center and Cutters Creek. For shoppers, it will mean additional choices without requiring a long drive.

Of course, there are those who don’t want you to have a choice of where to conveniently shop. There are also those who believe stores should move into existing storefronts on Mayfield Road. Problem is, most retailers aren’t interested in those kinds of sites, and no one can force them to do business where they don’t want to.

I have spoken to both of South Euclid’s mayoral candidates – and both have told me that they favor a yes vote on Issue 96. Of every candidate for South Euclid city council, both incumbent and challenger, only one has stated his opposition to Oakwood Commons. This is not a partisan or political issue. This is an issue of communities having the right to control their own destinies without outside interference.

Sure, I would have liked to see Oakwood become a park. Guess what: Ain’t gonna happen. Voting yes on 96 is not the perfect solution. It is the ONLY viable solution.

Hank Drake

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